Vincent De Haître returned to his old stomping grounds at Bob MacQuarrie Recreation Complex - Orléans with a shrine of prizes collected from around the globe, the spoils of a standout 2016-17 speed skating campaign.
Yes, he was there to sign autographs for younger athletes, but Canada’s most decorated speed skater this season was also put to work, volunteering to help run the Mar. 25-26 Canada East Short Track Championships hosted by his Gloucester Concordes home club.
The Cumberland native says it’s important to help out those who helped him become one of the world’s best, not to mention show the next generation what’s possible.
For De Haître, the sky seems to be the limit. The 22-year-old won 5 World Cup medals this season – including his first individual gold – and finished the year ranked 2nd overall in the men’s 1,000 metres.
Perhaps the biggest prize of the bunch, however, was the World Single Distances Championships silver medal, which he won on the future 2018 Olympic ice in South Korea.
“Being the Olympic test event, that was a stepping stone moving towards the Olympics and hopefully performing the same way there,” reflects De Haitre, whose goal entering the season had simply been improved consistency, and hopefully a regular spot in the top-5.
“Staying inside the top-6 is a big step moving towards the Olympics,” adds the 2014 Olympian who was Canada’s youngest speed skater in Sochi at age 19. “If you’re in the top-8, you have a shot at the medal on any given day.”
De Haître also became the new Canadian record holder in the men’s 1,000 m when he smashed Jeremy Wotherspoon’s mark while competing on home ice for the World Sprint Championships in Calgary, clocking in at 1:06:72.
That record meant a great deal to De Haître, he underlines, though he’s now got his eye on a new benchmark come next season.
“With World Cups (on the world’s fastest ice) in Calgary and Salt Lake City, I’m hoping I’m feeling good on those days. I could see myself trying to throw my hat into the ring and see if I can crack that world record,” signals the reigning Ottawa Sports Awards male athlete of the year. “I’m only 3-tenths of a second off right now, and on a good day, it’s a possibility.”
The next-most decorated Canadian speed skater this season was fellow Concordes product Ivanie Blondin. The winner of 4 World Cup medals and a World Championships 3,000 m bronze finished the season ranked 3rd in the mass start, her signature event thanks to in large part to her background in short track dating back to her days as a youngster on Orleans ice.
Several local skaters collected medals of their own at the Canada East event. Gloucester’s Ethan Demel and Edouard Parent won bronze with Ontario in the boys’ age 12-13 3,000 m relay, while Claire Mallard of the Ottawa Pacers earned silver in the girls’ age 14 3,000 m points race.
Event Date: 4/6/2017